Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Reading Failures, Starting School, and American Literature

Hi, everyone! I hope you're all enjoying the gorgeous spring weather as much as I am! (I hope your spring weather is gorgeous...) And now, I have some confessions to make.

I would love to say that the reason I've been a bit MIA here on the blog lately is that I've been reading like nobody's business...but unfortunately, I've been doing very little reading at all lately. I've been sick (which may or may not have involved a trip to the emergency room) and out of town visiting family. Basically, life has a mind of its own, as I think we all know.

Also, I did the terrible thing and got Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver out of the library, and naturally got really into it (in my defense, I never expected a book with that particular subject matter to be such a page-turner), so I neglected Germinal more than I anticipated.

Germinal is actually sort of a page-turner too, when I do pick it up, but I'm not sure why. So far, it's not very exciting at all, and the characters are only just starting to be interesting to me. But I ought to admit that there is no way I'm ever going to finish it this month like I planned. However, I do still plan on finishing it...though it might be a little while...

And I haven't even finished Animal, Vegetable, Miracle yet either, but I'm hoping to finish it soon. This month was sort of a big reading fail.

But exciting things are coming up in May for me--I'm going back to school! And will probably be constantly in school from now to next summer. I might regret this next winter, but right now I'm really excited. I was one of those kids whose most exciting day of the year was the first day of school. I've always loved school--new teachers, new books, a little bit smarter and a little bit older. (And also, occasionally, new friends.) And school is still just as exciting to me as it's ever been. (I'm not sure how I'll handle graduation.)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Happy Library Week!

"So, I'll just go while you're studying tomorrow...unless you want to go with me?"

My husband smiled hesitantly. "Um..."

This is the conversation I had with my husband yesterday about going to the library. It's not that he hates the library. It's not him; it's me. Actually, I've yet to meet a person in Provo who would actually want to go to the library with me (unless they didn't know what they were getting into).

The truth is, I really love the library. Almost bordering on obsession, except that I occasionally allow regular life to get in the way of my library time. (But I'm rethinking that.) I love libraries like other book bloggers love bookshops. I come home with stacks of books just like they do, but my stacks are even more eye-rolling because there's no chance I could ever read them before the due date.

Here's a picture of the gorgeous Provo library, which I'm lucky enough to have:

To be honest, the part you're looking at is not actually the library part of the building, but a community center of sorts...the library is in the back. But it's still beautiful!
So far, the two brave souls in Provo who have ventured to visit the library with me are my husband and one of my best friends. They were both bored just as the excitement began (for me). And then I sort of felt bad for making them sit in the library for two hours, so I sighed and agreed to cut the visit short.

My love of libraries originated in my childhood and was taught me by my mother. Our whole family (sans Dad, who was probably at work) was used to long library visits. We could stay as long as we wanted. If other family members weren't ready to go home, we would cheerfully sit in a chair and read until they were done. My home library wasn't that big, but it was a veritable fountain of knowledge and fun--until my mom took me to the Downtown Library. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

I am very proud to say that I finished this book. Now that that's out of the way, I should tell you that this post will not at all resemble a review, because I feel completely underqualified to pass any kind of judgment on this book.

I know there are a lot of you out there who have either never read the book, or couldn't finish it. That's the very reason I finished it. (Shamelessly.) I made very little effort to really understand the book. In the beginning, I almost believed that I would finish it and have so little to think or say about it when I was done that I would hardly be able to blog about it, but I actually have plenty to say about it.

The truth is, I'm not sure Faulkner even really intended this book to be understood. (But like I said, I can't make any real judgments, because I haven't devoted any time to the study of the book or Faulkner--I just read through it.) It reminds me of art. Most art is pretty much beyond me. Even the art that seems obvious (nothing is obvious to me in art). But even though I can't see much meaning in a lot of art, that doesn't mean I can't look at it and feel emotion. And isn't that kind of the point of art, anyway? That's exactly how I felt about The Sound and the Fury. I don't even really know enough about it that I could write an accurate summary. But I sure felt emotional about it. The first chapter made me feel uneasy and almost afraid of what the rest of the book had to offer. The second chapter made me feel sick but had me flipping pages constantly. The third chapter made me so angry I had trouble finishing. And the last chapter...well, in the last chapter, I finally got to the part that wasn't very emotional at all, but was all the descriptive and introductory stuff you usually find in the first chapter of the book.

I've heard people say that the best way to read The Sound and the Fury is to read it backwards. And believe it or not, it would actually be way easier to understand that way. But I'm not sure that it would necessarily be easier to read. I think the last chapter might be Faulkner's way of peering over his glasses at us pointedly and saying, "Now do you see the value of the other chapters?" (I don't know whether he wore glasses or not, but he probably did at some point, right?)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Top Ten Books I Read Before I Was a Blogger

This weekly meme is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

I haven't been doing many Top Ten Tuesdays lately (most of the topics haven't interested me much), but as soon as I saw this one I immediately decided to do it. I've only been blogging about books for a few months, and there are tons of books I love that I read before I started blogging, and it makes me sad to know that it might be years before I post about them (if I ever do). So here they can have a little place on this blog. 

10. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. This is my favorite book in the whole world. I want to re-read it this year, so if that happens, I will post about it! 
(Also, I've been toying with the idea of hosting a Les Miserables readalong...would anyone be interested in joining that, or if you're not, do you think other people would be? I've never hosted a readalong so I'm not quite sure if this would be a good option, but I think there are a lot of people who want to read this and are just too afraid. Any opinions?)

Monday, April 8, 2013

Literary Heroes and Heroines

Here's the meme question for this month:

Who is hands-down the best literary hero, in your opinion? Likewise, who is the best heroine? 
That's a toughie. The best literary hero, I would have to say, is Jean Valjean from Les Miserables. He is just way too amazing to be passed up by any other literary hero. Enough said.

Literary heroine is a little bit harder. Jane Eyre would be a good choice, of course. Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird is pretty great, too. And I really love both Scarlett and Melanie from Gone With the Wind. And then there's Jo in Little Women. And Margaret Hale in North and South. All great in different ways.

What do you think? Which literary heroes and heroines are the best?

Saturday, April 6, 2013

In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan

I wanted to read a book about nutrition this year, and this book was certainly the right choice for me. It wasn't too long or too difficult of a read, but more important, it basically gave a lot of scientific evidence for a lot of things I've believed about food my entire life.

I think proper nutrition is important, but I've always been skeptical of counting calories or carbs or even nutrients. I admire people who forsake average food in order to eat weird health recipes with wheat germ or acai, but I never wanted to do it because food is important to me for much more than just staying alive. I love food not just for the taste or nutritional value, but for the cultural side of things. I've always felt that you really lose a lot when you narrow your food choices so far that you can't even enjoy a regular meal with other people. 

And it's always bothered me how the supposed "authorities" on nutrition constantly change their minds about which foods are good for you. Take milk, for example. People never used to question the nutritional quality of milk. They said you should drink a certain amount of milk a day. But then milk was too fattening. And now milk is good again...or maybe it's not? I don't even know anymore. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

March Wrap-up and April Plans

I didn't get time to read as much as I would have liked to during March, but it wasn't a half-bad reading month. I had to finally admit to myself that I couldn't read everything I got out of the library, even the ones I was partway finished with, so I reluctantly returned some of those; hopefully someday I can finish them.

Books finished this month:
A Room with a View
October Sky
The Paris Wife
The Old Man and the Sea
In Defense of Food
The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life

Events I participated in:
A Modern March

Favorite book of the month:
A Room with a View

April is going to be interesting because I don't actually have a lot of plans. I wonder if I subconsciously did that on purpose because my big plans for March didn't quite get realized. All my plans so far are sort of tentative, depending on how I feel. (I guess they're always tentative, but I'm not quite as gung-ho about them as I usually am.)

I'm in the middle of two books, leftover from Modern March: Running with the Bulls: My Years with the Hemingways by Valerie Hemingway, and The Sound and the Fury by Faulkner. I'm sort of focusing on The Sound and the Fury right now because it's due at the library soon, but I'm not very far into it. I don't understand it much at all, but I've decided it's better to finish it than to understand it. (Maybe not the best attitude to take, but I'm hoping that at least a little understanding will come as I read it.)

The only one I'm really determined to finish is Germinal by Emile Zola...which...I haven't got my hands on yet. Heh. But I'm definitely going to get through it by the end of April...fingers crossed. I'm hoping to read a bit more so I can get more than just these three books read.

How did your March plans go?

Monday, April 1, 2013

A Modern March Wrap-Up

I had a lot of plans for this event, and unfortunately I didn't get to all of them...I had planned on reading either The Sound and the Fury or A Portait of the Artist as a Young Man, but didn't get to either of them. I just didn't read as much during March as I did earlier in the year, unfortunately, and I was also distracted by some non-classic books. However, I did finish two books for this event, A Room with a View and The Old Man and the Sea. I also read The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, a novel about Ernest Hemingway's first wife, which is related to the event (but of course, can't be counted).

Even though I didn't read everything I planned to for the event, I'm pretty pleased with the two books that I did read. I ended up loving both of them and they taught me a little more about Modern literature, which I was only recently really introduced to.

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

This was the book chosen for me for the Classics Spin. For the most part, I was relieved, because this book is so short and easy. But on the other hand, I've already attempted to read it twice now, and neither time did I successfully make it to the end of the book.

This is rather embarrassing for me, since this is one of the shortest, easiest novels in the history of the Western canon. Plus, I'd already read The Sun Also Rises by Hemingway, and I loved that one. So why could I never get into this book?

Well, I started out fairly similar to how I started out before. The book seemed almost too simple. It's all about a fisherman trying to catch a big fish. All by himself. In a little boat out in the middle of the ocean. I don't know anything about fishing, and it doesn't particularly interest me. I kept finding myself thinking, Just CATCH the stupid thing, already! (I'm not really proud of that.)

But this time, finally, about halfway through, I started to see something much more to this book than just a simple fishing story. Probably since I had just read The Paris Wife, I started questioning why Hemingway himself was so emotionally invested in this story. I actually first compared the fish to his marriage to Hadley (probably, again, because of The Paris Wife). The fish was actually too good for Santiago, the fisherman; it was so big and so wonderful that he couldn't protect it, and lost it before he got to shore. But then I arrived at what is probably the most common interpretation, which is that the fish could represent Hemingway's own success in writing--a rather miserable thought, actually. Hemingway was getting along in years himself when he wrote The Old Man and the Sea, and he may have begun to think that he had tried to go too far out to sea by being a writer, and that he wasn't good enough or strong enough to write his own ideas. The supposed "irony" of this (according to the introduction) is that the book won a Nobel Prize, but I'm not sure that's actually ironic. Hemingway probably felt just the same about his writing pre-Nobel Prize as he did after it.